Haec credam a deo pio? A deo iusto, a deo scito? Cruciatus in crucem. Tuus in terra servus, nuntius fui. Officium perfeci. Cruciatus in crucem. Eas in crucem!
She sinks to her knees in front of the freshly dug grave. Her fingers clench around a small bouquet of white roses from her aunt's shop, tied neatly with white lace. A single petal falls into the dark expanse, fluttering gently in the still August air.
The sunlight taunts her. It is a day for picnic lunches and swimming pools, not pallbearers and cemeteries. She thinks of the last time she was right here, just a yard away from this very bit of ground, and how at least nature had had the decency to mourn with them. How tears fell from the sky that day and mingled with her own until the two were virtually indistinguishable.
Today it seems as though nature is laughing at her. The blinding sun, lush green grass, and cloudless sky mock her soundlessly, as if challenging her to find something to mourn in the midst of all this beauty and unblemished perfection.
Unblemished perfection. How many around her still describe her life as such? She feels their eyes resting upon her as they composed saccharine condolences and reassuring cliches with which to present her later, masked by sympathetic smiles and soft voices brimming with false hope and fake cheer.
Lana Lang has heard it all before. Her entire identity is built upon a foundation of fake cheer and meaningless cliches. So much of her relationship with Whitney was built upon those same false ideals of who she was and what she wanted, and she feels a stabbing in her heart for simply allowing the thought to graze the edge of her consciousness.
He deserved better than her, and she knows that. Deep down she fears she always knew that. She fears the cold, dark part of her that allowed her not only to live the lie but also to draw Whitney so deeply into it is her true self, and the virginal, perfect, utterly content ingenue is a cruel joke she perpetuates on those who care about her.
She doesn't deserve to be the first and last girl he ever truly loved. She never deserved it. He was so devoted, so fiercely and protectively loyal...she has no doubt that he died for her, albeit indirectly and quite unintentionally. He died doing the noblest, most courageous thing he could think of doing--serving his country and providing for her, whom he no doubt regarded as his future wife, the best life he could manage.
*He didn't deserve me*, she muses sadly, choking back her own shame and regret for what she was and what she should have been; what he needed and what she never gave him.
She cries not because he died, but because she lived.
She stands frozen at the edge of the graveyard, not knowing if she can face those who wait for her inside. How can she tell her parents that she has grown up to be a selfish, heartless monster? How can she tell Whitney that she doesn't know if she ever loved him?
How can she tell God that He was wrong to put her here in the first place? That if He hadn't, Lewis and Laura and Whitney wouldn't have died? That her continued life couldn't possibly be worth the price of theirs?
The words tumble forth from her mouth before she can process them, before she can even understand them. "What the hell do You want from me, God? What more can I give? What more can You take? You have my parents, You have my boyfriend, You have everything that could have made me human! Look at me! I have nothing left, God! Nothing! What kind of God are You, anyway? What did I do to deserve this? I never cursed You, I never doubted You. I took You into my heart and You took my heart!" Her desperate screams are rendered nearly intelligible by her wailing sobs, but she rails on, striving toward a catharsis thirteen years in the making. "What did I do to You, God? What did I do wrong? Did I live when I should have died? Is that what this is? Is that why everyone around me has to die? What will it take for me to pay this price, God? I have to know." She collapsed to the ground, her breath coming in pained, frantic gasps. "I have to know, God," she whispered. "When will it be enough?"
She picks herself up, straining at the seemingly simple effort, and staggers to Whitney's headstone, throwing herself beside it. "I'm sorry, Whitney, I'm so sorry," she wails, crossing her arms atop the stone and burying her face in them. "It's my fault, it's all my fault. You weren't supposed to die, Whitney. You didn't deserve it. I did. It was supposed to be me. I didn't love you enough."
She turns and faces the direction of her parents' graves, lacking the energy to walk across the cemetery. "It's all my fault," she declares, her words swirling in the breeze. "You didn't deserve this. It shouldn't have been like this. It's all wrong." Her voice cracks and drops off. "It's all wrong."
Hours later, she pulls herself to her feet and drags herself back to her house and to the life she knows she shouldn't have. She kneels down in front of the dresser and opens the drawer full of tiaras and ribbons and medals. There it is, the sum total of her unremarkable and utterly meaningless existence. A couple of tacky sequined tiaras and some spelling awards. This entitled her to live and Whitney to die? This was why she had to grow up an orphan while her parents had been fortunate enough to face death together, as they had life? She slammed the drawer shut with a disgusted shriek.
It's all so unfair.
Lana takes one last look at the heavens before casting God out of her heart and out of her life.
*Am I really to believe that these are the acts of a loving God? A wise God? A just God? To hell with your punishments? I was Your servant here on Earth. And I spread Your word and I did Your work. To hell with your punishments. To hell with you.
from The West Wing episode "Two Cathedrals," by Aaron Sorkin.
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